The Heat Is Online

IPCC: Climate Changing Faster Than Projected

Reports below on the IPCC's Third Assessment Report from: Reuters News service, the Associated Press, The Washington Post, the Los Angeles Times and The New York Times:


Scientists Issue Dire Prediction On Warming

Faster Climate Shift Portends Global Calamity This Century

The Washington Post, Jan. 23, 2001

BEIJING, Jan. 22 -- In the most forceful warning yet on the threat of global warming, an international panel of hundreds of scientists issued a report today predicting brutal droughts, floods and violent storms across the planet over the next century because air pollution is causing surface temperatures to rise faster than anticipated.

The [IPCC's Third Assessment] Report, approved unanimously at a U.N. conference in Shanghai and described as the most comprehensive study on the subject to date, says that Earth's average temperature could rise by as much as 10.4 degrees over the next 100 years -- the most rapid change in 10 millennia and more than 60 percent higher than the same group predicted less than six years ago.

If new scientific models are accurate, rising temperatures will melt polar ice caps and raise sea levels by as much as 34 inches, causing floods that could displace tens of millions of people in low-lying areas -- such as China's Pearl River Delta, much of Bangladesh and the most densely populated area of Egypt. Droughts will parch farmlands and aggravate world hunger. Storms triggered by such climatic extremes as El Niño will become more frequent. Diseases such as malaria and dengue fever will spread.

"The scientific consensus presented in this comprehensive report about human-induced climate change should sound alarm bells in every national capital and in every local community," said Klaus Topfer, head of the U.N. Environment Program. "We should start preparing ourselves."

The report was drafted by the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change, a group of hundreds of scientists established by the United Nations in 1988 to assess warming. The Shanghai survey relies on complex new computer simulations based on weather records from the last 150 years, as well as data collected from ice corings, coral and tree rings -- all of which can provide information on climate going back millions of years.

The results of the new models persuaded the panel to declare unequivocally for the first time that mankind is responsible for global warming rather than changes brought by the sun or other natural factors. "We see changes in climate, we believe we humans are involved, and we're projecting future climate changes much more significant over the next 100 years than the last 100 years," said Robert T. Watson, an American scientist who is chairman of the panel.

The report cited "new and stronger evidence that most of the observed warming of the last 50 years is attributable to human activities," primarily the burning of oil, gasoline and coal, which produces carbon dioxide and other gases that trap heat in Earth's atmosphere.

Carbon dioxide levels have increased by 31 percent over the past 250 years, reaching a concentration unseen on the planet in 420,000 years and perhaps as far back as 20 million years, the report said. In 1995, by contrast, the panel reported only a "discernible human influence" on global warming.

At that time, the group predicted a temperature rise of no more than 6.3 degrees by 2100.

The panel raised that prediction by more than 4 degrees in part because successful efforts to reduce the air pollutant sulfur dioxide, a common element of smog, have had the unintended effect of reducing particles in the air that help deflect the sun's rays, the report said.

The global warming issue has proved highly contentious among environmental scientists, with many respected figures arguing that Earth undergoes periodic climatic changes with or without contributions from mankind.

Fred Singer, professor emeritus of environmental sciences at the University of Virginia and former director of the U.S. Weather Satellite Service, called the new report "a political statement" based on theoretical models that does not conform to existing scientific data from thermometers at weather stations, Earth-circling satellites and high-altitude balloons. Almost all instrumental data, he said, show no warming trend in the past 60 years, and he called data that do "suspect."

But David Easterling, principal scientist at the Commerce Department's National Climate Data Center, noted that reductions in airborne sulfates, which act to cool temperatures, are expected this century because of such factors as the burning of cleaner coal. He called the "physics pretty well established."

The new calculations add urgency to international treaty talks on curbing greenhouse gas emissions that collapsed in November as participants disagreed over how to cut such emissions under a commitment made by industrialized countries in 1997.

Negotiations have been complicated by a U.S.-led effort to soften the impact of required cuts by adjusting for the amount of carbon dioxide that is absorbed by each nation's forests and farmlands. New climate talks are scheduled in Germany in May.

"Only a few countries, such as Britain and Germany, are on track to meet their targets," said Watson, who is the chief science adviser to the World Bank. "The United States is way off meeting its targets."

The United States is the largest producer of greenhouse gases, accounting for a quarter of the world total. China ranks second, but its per capita amount is relatively low.

UN sees faster global warming, humanity responsible

Reuters News Service, planetark.org, Jan. 22, 2001

SHANGHAI - The earth's atmosphere is warming faster than expected, evidence is mounting that humans are to blame and tens of millions of people may be forced from low-lying areas as seas rise, the UN said on Monday.


"We see changes in climate, we believe we humans are involved and we're projecting future climate changes much more significant over the next 100 years than the last 100 years," said Robert Watson of the UN's Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change.

A warmer climate would raise sea levels as ice caps recede and could force tens of millions of people to flee low lying areas like China's Pearl River Delta, Bangladesh and Egypt, the IPCC chairman told a news conference in Shanghai.

Klaus Toepfer, the head of the United Nations Environment Programme which part sponsors the IPCC, said the report should ring alarm bells everywhere.

"The scientific consensus presented in this comprehensive report about human-induced climate change should sound alarm bells in every national capital and in every local community," he said in a statement.

"We must move ahead boldly with clean energy technologies and we should start preparing ourselves for the rising sea levels, changing rain patterns and other impacts of global warming."

COMPREHENSIVE REPORT

Global warming is a highly controversial subject with many respected scientists arguing that the earth undergoes periodic climatic changes with or without contributions from humanity.

The IPCC report, which runs to more than 1,000 pages, was written by 123 lead authors around the world who drew on 516 contributing experts and is one of the most comprehensive produced on global warming.

A draft summary for policy makers, issued on Monday, said the report projects the earth's average surface temperature will rise 1.4 to 5.8 degrees Celsius (2.5 to 10.4 degrees Fahrenheit) between 1990 and 2100, higher than its 1995 estimate of a one to 3.5 degree C rise (1.8 to 6.3 degrees F).

Sea levels were likely to rise between nine and 88 cm (3.54 and 34.64 inches) over the same period, it said.

"The decade of the 1990s was the hottest decade of the last century and the warming in this century is warmer than anything in the last 1,000 years in the Northern Hemisphere," Watson said.

"We will see a drier summer in arid and semi-arid areas which will make water management much more difficult in the future," he said. Ecosystems such as coral and forests will suffer.

The earth's temperature had already risen 0.6 degrees C (1.08 degrees F) over the last 100 years and it has seen more floods and droughts around the world in the last decade. Land areas had warmed close to one degree, more than oceans, the IPCC said.

MORE DISEASE, LESS WATER

Watson said the main reason behind expectations of faster global warming is an anticipated fall in cooling agents such as sulphur dioxide. Sulphur emissions are expected to ease due to concerns they cause acid rain and deposits, he said.

Greenhouse gases such as carbon dioxide prevent heat from leaving the earth, therefore warming the earth's atmosphere, whereas sulphur dioxide tends to cool it.

Watson said the implications of global warming on human health included increases in heat stress mortality in the summer and diseases such as malaria and dengue fever.

It could also hit agriculture and water resources, which many experts believe will be a major issue in coming years.

Watson said industrialised nations had to help curb global warming, but developing countries must become more energy efficient and getting the right technologies in place everywhere was critical.

"Governments can play a critical role in placing the right enabling framework to facilitate the transfers of technology," he said. "It's not just hardware, it's information and knowledge."

Evidence of Rapid Global Warming Accepted by 99 Nations

SHANGHAI, China, January 22, 2001 (ENS) - The scientific basis for the reality of rapid global warming is clear, a comprehensive new United Nations report reveals. Snow cover has decreased, the duration of lake and river ice cover is shorter, and the atmospheric concentration of heat trapping carbon dioxide has increased by a third since 1750, climate scientists say.

The new assessment by the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change projects a "potentially devastating" global warming of 1.4 to 5.8 degrees Celsius (2.52 to 10.44 degrees Fahrenheit) over the coming century. This forecast is for higher temperatures than an assessment by the same panel five years ago.

Over 150 delegates from 99 governments met in Shanghai from January 17 to 20 to consider the new evidence contained in the contribution of Working Group I to the Third Assessment Report of the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change, "Climate Change 2001: The Scientific Basis."

The full report, which runs to over 1,000 pages, has been more than three years in production. It is the work of 123 lead authors from around the world. They in turn drew on the work of 516 contributing authors. The report has gone through extensive review by experts and governments.

After line-by-line consideration, the government delegates unanimously accepted the full report.

The Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) is jointly sponsored by the United Nations Environment Programme and the World Meteorological Organization. The IPCC Working Group is headed by Robert Watson, an American who is chief science adviser to the World Bank and a former adviser on environment and technology to the White House, and John Zillman, chairman of the World Meteorological Organization.

Watson warned rising temperatures will "cause decreases in agricultural productivity in the tropics and sub-tropics ... areas where we already have hunger."

New analyses of data from tree rings, corals, ice cores and historical records for the northern hemisphere show that the increase in temperature in the 20th century is the largest of any century during the past 1000 years.

Globally, the 1990s were the warmest decade and 1998 the warmest year in the instrumental record since 1861, the scientists found.

"The scientific consensus presented in this comprehensive report about human induced climate change should sound alarm bells in every national capital and in every local community, said Klaus Toepfer, executive director of the United Nations Environment Programme and a former German environment minister.

"We must move ahead boldly with clean energy technologies, and we should start preparing ourselves now for the rising sea levels, changing rain patterns, and other impacts of global warming," Toepfer urged.

Michael Zammit Cutajar, executive secretary of the United Nations Climate Change Convention, said, "The scientific findings being reported today should convince governments of the need to take constructive steps towards resuming the climate change talks that stalled last November in The Hague."

Key findings of the report include new and stronger evidence that most of the warming observed over the last 50 years is attributable to human activities.

Since the IPCC’s 1995 Report, confidence in the ability of models to project future climate has increased. There is now a longer and more closely scrutinized temperature record.

Reconstructions of climate data for the past 1,000 years, as well as model estimates of natural climate variations, suggest that the observed warming over the past 100 years was unusual and is unlikely to be entirely natural in origin.

In the mid-latitudes and high latitudes of the northern hemisphere, it is very likely that snow cover has decreased by about 10 percent since the late 1960s, and the annual duration of lake and river ice cover has shortened by about two weeks over the 20th century, the climate scientists agree.

In recent decades, there has been about a 40 percent decline in Arctic sea ice thickness during late summer to early autumn, the researchers found.

Global warming is linked to the emissions of six gases formed by the combustion of oil, coal and natural gas; the major one is carbon dioxide. These gases form a blanket in the upper atmosphere which keeps the heat of the Sun from radiating back out into space, trapping it close to the Earth.

Since 1750, the atmospheric concentration of carbon dioxide has increased by 31 percent from 280 parts per million to about 367 ppm today. The present carbon dioxide concentration has not been exceeded during the past 420,000 years and likely not during the past 20 million years, the scientists report.

Five years ago the same panel predicted a rise in global temperature of 1 to 3.5 degrees Celsius (1.8 to 6.3 degrees Fahrenheit).

Scientists say the prediction of even higher global temperatures is largely because future sulphur dioxide emissions, which help to cool the Earth, are now expected to be lower than forecast in 1995.

Global average water vapour concentration and precipitation are projected to increase. More intense precipitation - rain and snow - is likely over many northern hemisphere’s mid-latitude to high latitude land areas.

Sea levels are projected to rise by 0.09 to 0.88 meters (3.51 to 34.32 inches) from 1990 to 2100. Despite higher temperature projections these sea level projections are slightly lower than the range projected five years ago, primarily due to the use of improved models, which give a smaller contribution from glaciers and ice sheets.

The Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change Report will include a report on the impacts of climate change, to be finalized in mid-February, and another report on response strategies, expected in early March.


New U.N. report warns disaster ahead from global warming, blames pollution

Associated Press, Ft. Lauderdale Sun-Sentinel, Jan. 22, 2001


SHANGHAI, China (AP) -- Global temperatures could rise by as much as 10½ degrees over the next century, triggering droughts, floods and other disasters from shifts in weather patterns, a U.N. report said Monday.

The projected rise in average worldwide temperatures is sharply higher than the 2½-5½ degrees previously thought, said Robert T. Watson, chairman of the U.N.-affiliated Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change, which organized the meeting in Shanghai.

The U.N. report, by scientists from 99 countries, said new evidence shows more clearly than ever that rising temperatures are the fault of industrial pollution, not changes in the sun or from other natural causes.

Yet, few countries are meeting commitments to cut emissions of greenhouse gases, scientists said.

"Only a few countries such as Britain and Germany are on track to meet their targets," said Watson, an American who is chief science adviser to the World Bank. "The United States is way off meeting its targets."

The report is intended to add urgency to world climate negotiations that ended in November when countries couldn't agree on how to reduce greenhouse gases under a commitment by industrialized countries in 1997.

It is the most authoritative evidence yet to support warnings that air pollution threatens to wreak environmental havoc by causing the atmosphere to retain more of the sun's heat.

The United States is the biggest of producer of greenhouse gases, accounting for a quarter of the world total. China is No. 2, but has recently begun a far-reaching effort to shift coal-fired factories and power plants to natural gas and cleaner fuels.

The atmospheric level of carbon dioxide -- the most common greenhouse gas -- will be higher in the next century than it has been for 420,000 years, Sir John T. Houghton, co-chairman of the Shanghai meeting, told reporters.

"The rate of climate change this century is expected to be greater than it has been in the past 10,000 years," said Houghton, former director of Britain's weather agency.
New climate talks are to begin in May in Germany.

A key sticking point is the U.S.-led effort to reduce the cost of emissions cuts. Washington and its allies want to subtract carbon dioxide absorbed by forests and farmland from a country's reduction quota -- a stance that some European governments oppose.
Negotiations also could be complicated by the new administration of President Bush, a former oil man who has expressed reluctance about U.S. commitments to curb greenhouse gases.

The Shanghai conference was the start of a series of meetings under U.N. auspices to gather evidence for climate negotiators. Other gatherings will focus on the social and economic costs of global warming and how to reduce it. The series ends in April with the release of a climate report in Nairobi, Kenya.

The scientists warned that rising temperatures threaten to disrupt fishing, farming and forestry, and kill much of the globe's coral reefs. Rising seas could flood heavily populated coastal areas of China, Bangladesh or Egypt.

The most extreme projections say melting Antarctic ice could raise sea levels by up to 10 feet over the next 1,000 years.

China is already feeling the impact of changing weather, said Ding Yihui, the meeting's other co-chairman and former director of the China National Climate Center. He said global warming may to be blame for a record drought that cut China's grain harvest by 10 percent.

"The poor in developing countries will be the most affected," Watson said.
Most growth in greenhouse gas emissions is expected to take place in developing countries, which aren't covered by the 1997 reduction agreement. Scientists said curbing that pollution will depend on encouraging the spread of pollution-control technology owned by richer countries.

"It's very unfair to say developing countries are not doing their part," Watson said.
"A country like China has done more, in my opinion, than a country like the United States to move forward in economic development while remaining environmentally sensitive."

UN Sees Faster Global Warming, Humanity Responsible

Reuters, Los Angeles Times, Jan.22, 2001

SHANGHAI--The earth's atmosphere is warming faster than expected, evidence is mounting that humans are to blame and tens of millions of people may be forced from low-lying areas as seas rise, the U.N. said on Monday.

"We see changes in climate, we believe we humans are involved and we're projecting future climate changes much more significant over the next 100 years than the last 100 years," said Robert Watson of the U.N.'s Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change.

A warmer climate would raise sea levels as ice caps recede and could force tens of millions of people to flee low lying areas like China's Pearl River Delta, Bangladesh and Egypt, the IPCC chairman told a news conference in Shanghai.

Klaus Toepfer, the head of the United Nations Environment Program which part sponsors the IPCC, said the report should ring alarm bells everywhere.

"The scientific consensus presented in this comprehensive report about human-induced climate change should sound alarm bells in every national capital and in every local community," he said in a statement.

"We must move ahead boldly with clean energy technologies and we should start preparing ourselves for the rising sea levels, changing rain patterns and other impacts of global warming."

COMPREHENSIVE REPORT

Global warming is a highly controversial subject with many respected scientists arguing that the earth undergoes periodic climatic changes with or without contributions from humanity.
The IPCC report, which runs to more than 1,000 pages, was written by 123 lead authors around the world who drew on 516 contributing experts and is one of the most comprehensive produced on global warming.

A draft summary for policy makers, issued on Monday, said the report projects the earth's average surface temperature will rise 1.4 to 5.8 degrees Celsius (2.5 to 10.4 degrees Fahrenheit) between 1990 and 2100, higher than its 1995 estimate of a one to 3.5 degree C rise (1.8 to 6.3 degrees F).

Sea levels were likely to rise between nine and 88 cm (3.54 and 34.64 inches) over the same period, it said.

"The decade of the 1990s was the hottest decade of the last century and the warming in this century is warmer than anything in the last 1,000 years in the Northern Hemisphere," Watson said.
"We will see a drier summer in arid and semi-arid areas which will make water management much more difficult in the future," he said. Ecosystems such as coral and forests will suffer.
The earth's temperature had already risen 0.6 degrees C (1.08 degrees F) over the last 100 years and it has seen more floods and droughts around the world in the last decade. Land areas had warmed close to one degree, more than oceans, the IPCC said.

DISEASE, LESS WATER

Watson said the main reason behind expectations of faster global warming is an anticipated fall in cooling agents such as sulfur dioxide. Sulfur emissions are expected to ease due to concerns they cause acid rain and deposits, he said.

Greenhouse gases such as carbon dioxide prevent heat from leaving the earth, therefore warming the earth's atmosphere, whereas sulfur dioxide tends to cool it.

Watson said the implications of global warming on human health included increases in heat stress mortality in the summer and diseases such as malaria and dengue fever.

It could also hit agriculture and water resources, which many experts believe will be a major issue in coming years.

Watson said industrialized nations had to help curb global warming, but developing countries must become more energy efficient and getting the right technologies in place everywhere was critical.

"Governments can play a critical role in placing the right enabling framework to facilitate the transfers of technology," he said. "It's not just hardware, it's information and knowledge."

150 Nations Start Groundwork for Global Warming Policies

The New York Times, Jan. 18, 2001

SHANGHAI, Jan. 17 — Scientists from 150 governments began a four- day meeting here today to try to agree on what latest evidence of global warming should be used as the basis to set global environmental policies.

The Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change, an organization of hundreds of scientists that the United Nations created in 1988 to assess warming, has drafted a thick report that doubles the top end of the temperature increase predicted over the next century, by 11 degrees.

The meeting here is the first of several to fine-tune a summary of that report to be used by governments in negotiating a climate treaty. The report updates the organization's latest assessment of global warming, in 1995, and suggests an acceleration of the trends that have caused alarm among environmentalists. The draft finds that the warming in the 20th century was likely to have been the greatest of any century in the last 1,000 years for the Northern Hemisphere and that the 1990's was the warmest decade of the last millennium.

Rising temperatures have also lengthened the "freeze-free" season in many mid- and high-latitude regions, the draft says, and they have cut snow cover since the 1960's by 10 percent. The rate at which the sea level rose in the last century was 10 times faster than the average rate over the last 3,000 years.

The findings add urgency to treaty negotiations aimed at carrying out the reductions in greenhouse gases stipulated by the 1997 Kyoto Protocol, a treaty signed by more than 100 countries, but not ratified by any industrialized nations. The latest round of talks ended without an agreement in November in the Netherlands, and today dissension rippled through the conference hall.

Greenpeace argues that scientific evidence is being ignored by industrialized nations reluctant to enact costly policies to cut emissions of carbon dioxide and other greenhouse gases. Chinese representatives complained that the forum ignored the views of scientists who discount evidence of global warming as part of normal climatic fluctuations or cast doubt on the effects of carbon dioxide.

"The organization is supposed to report objectively, but it now tends to fix the conclusion first and then find evidence to support that conclusion," said Lu Xuedu, a delegate from the Chinese Ministry of Science and Technology.

Among Beijing's objections to the 1,000-page summary report, from which China's contribution was left out, Mr. Lu said, is the finding that the increase in greenhouse gases and associated warming stemmed primarily from human activities, a contention that bears directly on the coal-dependent power generation that drives China's economic development.

China, nonetheless, is working to reduce its carbon dioxide emissions by adding power plants fueled by natural gas, water or nuclear energy, said Gao Feng, deputy director general of the Treaty and Law Department of the Foreign Ministry. Mr. Gao said China had cut its coal production, to 992 million tons in 1999 from 1.4 billion in 1996.

China continues to show relatively low gas emissions per capita. North America and Western Europe are the largest contributors, with the United States being the largest of all.

A far greater number of proposed challenges to the summary report came from the American Petroleum Institute and oil companies like ExxonMobil, as well as from delegates from the Organization of Petroleum Exporting Countries.